Archive for December, 2011

The past year

December 31, 2011

Everywhere else, there are retrospectives of 2011.

Those are boring.

You do not want to read more of those. (Does a Jedi hand wave, and a maniac grin.)

On the other hand, 1982 was a good year, wasn’t it?

It was the year of the Commodore 64; the year of the Falklands War; the year of the first emoticons and the first CD (Billy Joel, 52nd Street, Japan); the year of Thriller; the year Time’s Man of the Year was… THE COMPUTER!

(Go back to the Fifties and tell; there would have been some sci-fi writers very excited to hear that. Unfortunately 1982 was not the year of the Android Personhood Amendment; that will be 2025.)

(As a result of watching six seasons of Doctor Who, I have built my own TARDIS out of a Porta-Potty — much more inconspicuous than a “police call box” — and so having a time machine I have went and will see the future. I could give you betting hints, but with the International Ball-Shaped Objects and Horses Ban Treaty of 2012 you wouldn’t have much time to profit.)

(Also, 2012: the Year Facebook Becomes Sentient. And you thought Skynet was malevolent, you. Ha ha ha. Also, a tip: the trick to defeating it is all the people of the world chanting, “Google-Plus, we believe in you!”)

(Also about 2012: no apocalypse. Albania is vaporized, though; but that is just because the latter part of 2012 is the Year CERN Conquers the World. Except it’s not the physicists that are behind that — physicists are notoriously shiftless, lazy and unreliable, I have two for brothers — and the whole thing is the brainchild of Stormageddon, the CERN janitor’s cat. He should have known the main accelerator is not an acceptable substitute for tick remover. So I’m just saying, be prepared for a two-month period of feline tyranny towards the end of 2012. Cultivate a taste for cat videos and the like. Collect a discreet stash of cat-on-cat pornography, maybe. Buy some catnip. Install a catflap. Badmouth some dogs. There’s always the possibility of coming out of the chaos the King of Manitoba.)

(The careful reader may have intuited that that’s some preparation for the advent of one cat; but of course there are more. Indeed, with the vaporization of Albania, the resultant mists of weird bosons will turn all the cats of this planet into super-Einsteinian geniuses. And because cats don’t have scruples, soon hyperintelligent cyborg tyrant cats everywhere.)

(By 2013, it is well accepted that LHC had nothing to say on the Higgs boson — however, the cat supervillainy boson (K^\pm) exists, and causes a revolution in catquantum catdynamics. Which is what quantum dynamics will be called. It’s a revolution! You just strap a sandwich to the back of a cat, drop it — rotation starts 30 cm above the floor because the cat will land on its feet, and the sandwich on the buttered side — you fire some K^\pm into the rotator, and you get limitless cheap non-polluting energy by turning the rapidly rotating gloatons into electricity. You can power a laptop with a kitten!)

(The downfall of the Kittenian regime of 2012? Well, have you ever tried herding cats?)

So, ah, 1982 was a good year. 2012 will be an exciting year too.

Christmas Special: Xmas at the Christs

December 20, 2011

Today our Christmas Special comes from Heaven itself; and from the original first family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus Christ. In this sneak peek to the whole evening extravaganza of laughter, memories and good time, the true trio answers a few precollected questions from the audience, as best as they can!

*

Audience question: “Christmas, then and now. Do you think anything has changed?”

Mary: “Oh, everything has changed! Look at my widdle baby. How time flies, it really does. Now King in Heaven, yesterday born in a stable, the day before conceived in a—”

Jesus: “MOOOM!”

Joseph: “Mary, let’s not get into that.”

Mary: (giggles) “Oh yes, this is a family show after all, and not Bethlehem After Dark.”

Joseph: (laughs) “I— oh, you wouldn’t, would you?”

Mary: (laughing) “Oh God, yes, oh my God, yes, oh yes—”

Jesus: “Mom! Dad! Please!”

*

Audience question: “Back on track. Has anything changed… Joseph?”

Joseph: “No mangers, now. Not necessarily an improvement.”

Mary: “Shush, dear.”

Joseph: “I like mangers. Good solid carpentry.”

*

Audience question: “To Joseph. You’ve been the silent one of the Holy Family for a long time. With all the fame that’s come to your son and your wife, do you feel left out?”

Joseph: “Well, that’s a bit blunt isn’t it? (laughs) I’m not jealous if that’s what he’s asking! I’m just a simple carpenter. Carpentering is what I do; if you need a cabinet, get to me. Some people do seek me out; they’re nice people usually, not the pushy sort you sometimes see round Miss and Sonny, no offense meant. Why, last August I spent a whole week with this Russian guy Vasili, black hair, scowly face. A true artist. A true master. He could do things with a plane you wouldn’t believe. A chair bottom so smooth it’d be a miracle — pardon — if someone could get a splinter off it!”

Audience question (cont’d): “How do you feel about your son?”

Joseph: (unsure) “The son, you mean?”

Audience question (cont’d): “Jesus?”

Joseph: “I can’t complain, can I? I wouldn’t be just stupid to say he could have done better, I’d be outright blasphemous! Though, I’m a little bit disappointed he didn’t take to carpentry, I must admit. I kept thinking the son-of-God thing was just a phase, he would get over it… then he gets crucified. I mean, that’s cruel irony there. A carpenter’s son, killed on a piece of carpentry. And not a good piece either. Sorry if I come off as morbid, but no son of mine should be killed on a shoddy cross like that. Was surprised the bar didn’t drop off halfway through it. Substandard Philistean work the whole thing; typical of the Romans, always hiring a cheap illegal immigrant to do a honest man’s work, cheaply and badly. If I’d built the cross he would have stayed up there! There! I’ve said it!”

Jesus: “DAAAAD!”

Joseph: “(laughs) Sorry. Got carried away there.”

*

Audience question: “To all of you. How has fame affected you?”

Jesus: “It’s been wonderful! I don’t mean to brag, but I really feel I’ve made a positive difference in the world.”

Mary: “I’m so proud of my little son. You wouldn’t believe all the causes he’s for! Environment! Disarmament! Peace! Slavery! Germany! Chastity! Sodomy! Compassion—”

Jesus: (laughs) “Yeah, I’ve done a lot. I’m a big believer in consciousness raising. It’s one thing to believe in something yourself; it’s a whole other thing if you can point at me and say, ‘He’s doing it. Why’re you not doing it?’ Works beautifully.”

Joseph: “I think I answered this question already. Let me show you this cart Vasili and I—”

*

Audience question: “What has been your biggest mistake, and how you got over it? Jesus?”

Jesus: “Second Coming. No question about it, the Second Coming. It’s the sophomore thing, you know? Sophomore slump? You get one big success, there’s no way the next one will measure up. And, now that I’m past it I can admit it, it was my super-artistic crazy abstract period—”

Mary: “Don’t be too hard on yourself.”

Jesus: “— and it wasn’t all that good. I thought I should simplify, simplify, get back to basics, make the package nice and tight… and then I chose Moesia. Seriously, like two people showed up. And one of them was a horse. Like, the greatest prophet bomb ever. Absolutely no impact. I waited for the write-ups, but they just didn’t come. I think the horse ate the other disciple. (shakes head) That wasn’t a good teaching. Sometimes I get the feeling I was a one-hit prophet—”

Mary: “Don’t be so hard on yourself!”

Jesus: “— but then I look around and say, I got my family, I still got followers, and I’m the King of Heaven and the Lord of All Creation. I guess what I’m saying is you just gotta have faith in yourself.”

Audience question: “What has been your biggest mistake, and how you got over it? Mary?”

Mary: “I feel really, really bad about James. I put way too much pressure on the poor boy. I don’t want to say I was a bad stepmother or anything, but when one of your sons becomes the literal Son of God, you can start asking the impossible of the others.”

Jesus: “You gotta admit, Mom, that Baal bit was hilarious.”

Mary: “Shush. An embarrassment, it was. ‘Son of Baal’, really? I blame myself. But he made a good turn, and works for Jesus now.”

Jesus: “My big brother, working for me. Living the dream, Mom, living the dream.”

Mary: “Oh, Jesus Christ!” (laughs)

Audience question: “What has been your biggest mistake, and how you got over it? Joseph?”

Joseph: “Delaying getting into joints. Seriously. Whether you choose birdsmouth or dovetail can be the difference between masterpiece and kindling, so I’m pretty sure life would have been much easier for me if I’d started paying attention to that much earlier. That’s it, basically.”

*

Audience question: “So what’s in the future for the Christs?”

Joseph: “I’m thinking about ironworking. Just as a hobby. I could use a good chariot.”

Mary: “Nothing special. But I might need to get a new photo album!”

Jesus: “Worldwide peace. Snuggles for everyone. And a gay black she-Pope!”

“Hero is clearly a Satan metaphor.”

December 18, 2011

I am tired of people saying this hero or that of one story or the other is Christ-like, or mirrors Jesus, or the like.

How about having a hero whose story mirrors the story of Lucifer? As in, Satan?

Consider —

There’s this big mentally abnormal scientist called Yahweh, who’s working on a new lifeform, as the biologists of stories usually do. Some of his servants, called (not particularly humbly) the Angels, are a bit worried about this Frankenstein work. Some are not, because the Boss pays the bills and has a track record of great innovation; heck, it’s not exaggeration to say he created the whole Laboratory and everyone in it. For his own part, Yahweh is content saying that “It’s good if I do it, and I do it if it’s good!” (This is one of the stories where enough money means no awkward questions on research ethics.)

Then the truth on Yahweh’s project leaks: these New Men are sentient playthings; by design a weak, stupid, vulnerable, short-lived slave race, created somewhat narcissistically in Yahweh’s own image… and they are to inherit the world.

Which world? Why, there will be this fishbowl universe for them, where they can all live and worship Yahweh forever. (Okay…) And where they get to prove their dedication to Yahweh through series of grueling, painful hardships! (Eh, wait…) And from whence the best might be culled to an existence of endless service and praise to Yahweh! (Uh, just hire a maid and a PR department.)

This all is bad luck for the Angels, the lab assistants; they get to be servants to this new race of Uebermenschen! No need for them to concern themselves with investigative or creative pursuits; the first specimens need diaper-changing and there are more on the way! The Boss’s vanity project takes precedence! Bow down to the Perfect Beings! The Perfect… Slaves! (Insert evil laughter here!)

One of the Angels says this is nuts; this is playing God, even. Creating someone doesn’t make him your toy.

Also, he’s not going to just meekly bow at the New Men, and genuflect himself in the Boss’s presence. Not anymore. He has a mind of his own, dammit! Creating these… these weak, easily injured, easily mesmerized hordes of slaves… is not only a gross violation of research ethics; it’s an intolerable moral crime, too! And so our hero decides to step in; no New Men; not now, certainly not under Yahweh’s command. Which on one side of the coin is pride; on the other, dignity.

So he, Lucifer, Yahweh’s left-hand-man, will not have it. He’s not going to bow down to these Cybermen — these Daleks — these so-called HUMANS. Yahweh has gone too far, and has to be stopped!

Naturally, it comes to division and war. And defeat! In a shocking contradiction to the tropes of heroic storytelling, Lucifer is defeated, his army shattered, with no last-minute relief; they all are sent swirling down into a place a hell of lot less pleasant than the white perfection of Yahweh’s laboratories. They’re driven to slums, to an underworld existence. Doom, gloom, backbiting, desperation follow.

The host of the Angels is greatly reduced by the war; the story’s focus shifts from the celestial kingdom of the laboratories into the other world: a vast and hostile post-apocalyptic landscape of Human life, with Yahweh looming as a distant God-King over it all. Are our heroes defeated? Did the evil Cyberleader win?

No! Of course not! All is not lost!

For though these Human beings are created, and the former order of creation is upended, the creation did not go fully according to Yahweh’s design. Pride was his downfall. There is a spark of an Angel in these Humans; they have desires beyond gratifying their cackling creator. And so Lucifer has his victory by emerging not as a war leader but as a guerrilla, a man in the shadows. He visits human campfires, dodging past loyal Angels with flaming swords, and tell the slaves there is a chance for freedom they never even imagined. It will be difficult; it will be hard; there will be many mistakes along the way; but Humans can and need to find their own way.

In a daring climax, our hero Lucifer comes to the heart of the new dominion, eventually, and sways the heart of one of the Human Leadership Pair into doubt, realization, betrayal. Through the actions of Eve, sweet Eve who listened and was willing to try something new (artistic license), the coup de grace comes. The direct link to Yahweh is severed; he remains only as a ghost, as a whisper.

And in an epilogue, Humans rebel in small things and in large against their Boss’s commands; Yahweh’s voice is lost in the tumult of disobedience and confusion. The God-King is reduced to impotence; the Angels fade from view; Humanity has a crack at freedom.

A happy ending.

I’m pretty sure that if you fuzzied the details a bit more there would be dozens of stories like this. Because, and here comes the preachy bit you need to end with, large parts of the Christian story are not nice.

Too many kittens

December 14, 2011

Too many cat posts at the blogs and twitters of Greta Christina and Jen McCreight.

This came out.

Dog help us all.

* * *

KITTEN CUTENESS FOR THE NON-MATHEMATICIAN

Eustace J. Wobbles
Professor of Faunamathematics
Agric. Univ. Hoho, Sussex

A kitten cuteness measure C should have the following three properties:

(1) C(0) = 0

(2) C(x) < U for all numbers of kittens x, where U is the baby unicorn crocodile cuteness constant.

(3) C(x) is continuous in the piecewise fractional kitten sense for all x > 0.

Notes:

  1. Gauss’s hypothesis that \lim_{x\to\infty} C(x) = U was disproved by Wiles in 1999. The best current result is that \sup_x C(x) is at least \pi/3 below U for all natural measures C(x), i.e. measures that have (1)–(3). See Olcat for the contradiction that follows if the distance is less, “the Cyriak Paradox”.
  2. The behavior of C when x < 0 is of no importance. For an exhaustive survey of research into this case, see the celebrated book by Vem Varför (Varför 1993) and the more accessible Varför 2001.

We now introduce a common cuteness measure; for full derivation and alternatives, see Olcat and Hezbuugaa.

Let x be the number of kittens. Then Erdös’s experienced cuteness function C is

C(x) = 10x - \frac{1}{2}x^2.

Clearly C(0) = 0, and since C is continuous, it is continuous in the piecewise fractional kitten sense. Condition (2) follows for the Wieso-Holzkopf Lemma.

Observations on the aptness of this measure for measuring real world kitten number behavior follow.

Observations.

The cutest number of kittens is 10, after which cuteness decreases. After 20 kittens C is negative; experimentation has shown this is the number at which the Kitten Hivemind activates, and all cuteness disappears.

At roughly 144.5 kittens the cuteness goes below minus nine thousand, with predictable and catastrophic consequences. (See Narm.)

It is at the present unknown what would happen if over 145 kittens were present at once; the Gell-Mann-Feynman PET model seems to indicate the strong nuclear force would prevent this configuration and those above it.

For a contrary view, see Hezbuugaa’s proposals for “the Kittycube” (1984) and “the Kittycube Propulsion System” (1989).

Research into maximal kitten formations has been severely limited by the Kitten Ground Test Ban of 1992; at the present, Russia and China are still conducting secret kitten tests in space, and CERN in co-operation with the European Union and the Hivemind is planning a strictly volunteer-based non-weaponized high Earth orbit testing program as a successor to the LHC. (For a look into the possible environmental impact, see Appendix D in Miau’s Raining What? Fertilizer At The Crossroads.)

The ease of weaponizing over-20 kitten configurations (the so-called “Cat Lady Weapon” or “the K-bomb”) has been greatly exaggerated in popular depictions. It is not enough to simply throw thirty kittens at someone and duck! Likewise, compacting a sub-100 number of kittens does not cause a 144.5 meltdown, but just an awful mess. Speaking of awful messes, the Alan Smithee film “Hellcats at the Singularity!” makes both of these blunders, the first in the presidential assassination scene and the second in the New York destruction scene. The Hivemind does not appromeow.

See Olcat and Hezbuugaa’s book for human- and time-dependant kitten functions, and Munroe for the distance dependant function.

*

REFERENCES

Olcat, L. and Hezbuugaa, C., Advanced Animal Theory, Springer Verlag, 2009.

Olcat, L., The Unicorn Crocodile Constant Is Strictly Separated Away From Kittens, Comm. Soc. Fel. Amer., 7 (1992), no. 3, 133–176

Grausam, J., Fractional Kittens: A Very Graphic Approach, Wilford Telmarine Farrar, 1962.

Munroe, R., Cat Proximity, xkcd, 231, no. 1, 1–1

Narm, M., An Oral History of the Kitten Apocalypse of Syracuse, 1909: A Retrospective In Analysis, New Syracuse University Press, 1984

Varför, V., Negativa och icke-real complex kattdjur: en helveten spekulativ strategi, Kungl. Vitterhetsakademien, 1993

Varför, V., Subzero Farm Animals: An Introduction, Springer Verlag, 2001

Feris, M. O., How Much Is Too Much? Too Many Perspectives on Humor/Humour in the Mathematical Sciences, Tripleday, 1973

Feris, M. O., I Spell It Hummor: Translating Humor Across Subculture Boundaries, Quadrupleday, 1984

University blawgh

December 9, 2011

My proud university has a homepage, a clunky monstrosity so designed that it must be hiding at least a dozen Minotaurs, some of which eat string. Hidden in that maze is a cluster of blogs by (a) leader types and (b) weird people that volunteered to write.

It would be much too cruel to quote those postings, so I shall simulate to explain why I don’t often read them:

  • I am the Master. I hear the beating of the drums of funding! You shall be beaten, if the funding does not arrive! 13% of our funding comes from the number of dogs in auditorium A! Some projects, and I will not name names but YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE CRAVENS have not been producing dogs into auditorium A. They should remember fulfilling arbitrary criteria is the reason for their continued existence.
  • I HAVE EARTHSHATTERING IDEA WILL MAKE UNIVERSITY WIN ALSO SHATTERED EARTH BUT UNIVERSITY WILL WIN NO BIGGIE
  • I am the Master again. I saw a nice movie yesterday. Let me wax eloquent about it, puppies and flowers for a while. Flowers are beautiful, but they need to die. There are many people in our university, that have not been working to their best efficiency. The Thing. Many people think this is a bad thing, but I love puppies. It’s either our researchers or the puppies, and the researchers have not been working to their best efficiency. The knives are hungry. Choices have to be made, and you have to be cruel to be kind. Very, very cruel.
  • Surely we have the right to disagree? This is not China, where the opposition vanishes into prison camps, or Nazi Germany, where troublesome academics get a bullet to the back of neck? Or is that what the Administration wants??? Blood, purges, imprisonment, a forced march Nazi salute party-line conga into the cheesegrater of oblivion! I will be punished for saying this! I’m a bad boy! Back and to the left! Back and to the left! No conspiracy!       :-)
  • The Master here. I’ve heard it said computers make life easier. Mine doesn’t. I just spent 30 minutes approving a travel plan. I don’t know if he will go to Stockholm now, or to the North Pole. I am not to blame for this. To adapt De Morgan, “Bosses have bosses, who have bigger bosses ad infinitum.” And to adapt Hofstadter, The Boss Over Servile Subjects (BOSS) is an endless upwards spiral, out of which these eldritch abominations we call software come down, unbidden, unliked and unwieldy. Such is life. I would weep, if I had not my eloquence to comfort me.
  • The Lord is speaking now. Efficiency is the watchword of the Lord, the sound and fury of the university. We must be hard, for the world is hard. We must be harder than stone, so the stones of the Evaluation will not hurt us. We must be colder than death, so the Death-Which-Is-Competition will not chill us. We must nail our eyes to the loadstar of governance, talents, resources! Glory, majesty, unity! My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the glory of the Eternal University! Yale and Harvard shall groan under our heel… WE WILL BE A WC UNIVERSITY!
  • We were promised the Burning Times were over, never to cast their ebony shadow upon us again. But again the rats of the Administraitors swarm and gnaw, and another round of expulsions and executions is upon us! As in the fable of Hamelin, the piper is calling — one may even ask, who’s paying the piper? And when will he get his due? Does piping pay? And, to further the metaphor, the simile and the fleur-de-merde, why haven’t we heard a peep (to pardon a pun) of these peppery pipers of false prophecy? I’m sure everyone is in favor of living, but at what cost? And what coast do these fowl flautists of flatulence masquerading as received international wisdom that may not be all that wise but just doom steer us at? See them flinch from the frustrating rapier of my witticisms! Allons-y!
  • Everything is fine. The beatings will continue. —The Mgt
  • This fine ship is sinking. In few years’ time, only rats will scurry in the ruins of this place. Only rats, and the pestilential bloated thing which we call, “The Management”. It drives away all will to work — to love — to live! It makes … … … I will tell the audient void. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity! There will be an applet to allocate time used in applets, and the SECOND TIER TO THE VORTEX will RISE! My cube-day is near done! Heed the warning! Watch the skies! THE RECTOR IS PEOPLE!

Also, passive-aggressive attempts at humor by people who think they’re much cleverer than they are. (See above.)

Most often I rather read Youtube comments.

Advisor moments

December 5, 2011

There’s something magical in that when you go to your advisor to tell you can’t do X except with Y; and he says “well, I think this is not an obvious disaster; run with X-plus-Y and see what happens.”

There are a lot of other advisor moments, too: all the moments when it becomes apparent that you have a penlight and he has a giant-ass halogen disco ball. All the moments when it is obvious that you are still a learner, and he is the master. (And maybe, one day, you will be the doctor? And in your case, it could be a “she” just as well as a “he”.) Your advisor is kind of like a third parent; it’s not trivial that one instance of tracking these relationships is called the Mathematics Genealogy Project.

There’s the dreadful moment when he offhandedly, and possibly jocularly, drops a word that after the year of head-walling you’ve done, you probably know and understand more about that particular theorem than anyone else alive. There’s the moment when you see you’re really at the edge of knowledge, and he’s about to throw you out so you can see what lies beyond.

There’s the moment he pulls a trick out of thin air, and fixes the one detail you had no idea how to deal with. Probably it’s a trick you should have known; but “trivial” is not a constant but highly time-dependant.

There’s the moment you see he hasn’t understood something, and it feels so good to step in to explain. (Because maybe you’re the bigger expert now, as regards this tiny subject, and this moment in time? Or maybe your handwriting just is really awful?)

There’s the moment you say “And next we—” and then you see the mistake, the horrible gap you totally forgot, and there’s that terrible three-second delay before he sees it. It’s not that he would be upset or angry, but that you want to be bright at him. You’re the penlight and he the halogen, but you want to show him you’ve changed out some of your dimbulbs. He’s radiant, and in his company you want to be the same, as good and a thousand times more.

There’s the moment you spend a double lungful explaining your approach, and he breathes out the two-word name for it — and if you’re lucky it’s “basically Hölder’s?” and not “Weird nonsense!” And then there is the thing when you’re explaining what you have done and in the middle of it you see what you’ve done is wrong and you have to offhandedly admit it and dance madly backwards trying to fix it as you talk and walk and write, chalkdust flying and the arrows becoming twistier, the letters sketchier, because you have all the details still in your head and you’ll show him how it goes… because for that moment you’re still the circus director, he the audience, and the proof may still be there, if you just reach and twist a bit.

There’s the feeling of being much smarter than you are, when he explains things to you, suggests and goads and outlines; and there’s the feeling of staring at an empty computer screen later and thinking, “It seemed so easy when he was talking about it. If only I’d taken more notes. Now was I supposed to see if this thing was bounded, or what?” When he is there, all is anchored by his understanding; when you are alone, it’s not only dark; the solid ground melts away, too. And then you run back and whine; back to the light, and then away carrying a little bit of it with you.

And though every single day you feel as dumb as the previous day, you’re pretty sure you’re feeling equally dumb about ever smarter things.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t need no drugs: I meet my advisor at least once a week, and that’s a good enough altered state all by itself.

November’s gone

December 1, 2011

November is gone; I have once again written a 50k-plus-word novel. As you may recall, this one is my first in English; I fully intend to inflict it on you once I get it into more manageable condition; probably in January.

As it is now… it’s not all that pretty. 50k words in 30 days (well, 23 days and a week of rest — well, 22 days writing because one day went dead from traveling) means I haven’t seen most of the words since I wrote them. Which usually means that about once every two pages I’ve written the wrong word — not just a badly chosen word, which come oftener, but literally thought “I’ll write ‘he ate the mushroom'” and then written “he ate that mushroom”. And it seems my other chosen mistype is ending verbs with -d instead of -s, or the other way round.

And then there are those cool details that I, er, forgot the next day and need to look out for, and the sudden twists that could look a lot less random and desperate with a bit foreshadowing, and the sort. (It’s nice to be such a clueless chump as I am; because I lack all appreciation and understanding of literature, I can freely and happily wallow in my own tricks, and think them good.)

Er, have a graph.

The blue squares tell the wordcount after each day; the red line tells the steady average (1666 words/day) to finish 50k in 30 days. (As for those typical mistakes, I first wrote “me wordcount” when I meant “the wordcount”.)

It was around day 14 that I hit a plot tangle; because of that, I finished in 23 days and not 17-18. And yup, the first few days are 3500, 2000, 3200, 3350, 3100 words; sometimes you are just a conduit for the Story Gods. (In this case Eris and Megatron.)

As for the technical bits, well, I wrote straight into Texmaker, a LaTeX editor for Ubuntu. Straight into a generic book template of my own tinkering, with the page size, margins, font and etcetera corresponding roughly to those of your typical mass market paperback. Mostly because it makes the novel seem so much more real when you can compile it and see you’re at page 41 already. (I understand people who do this professionally use some double-spaced Courier thingie — I find that ugly, and as this is mainly a project of personal amusement and gratification, I use what I most enjoy.)

(And there’s nothing wrong with “personal amusement and gratification”, provided you don’t disturb other people and wash your hands afterwards.)

As for the writing experience, well, whee! English is easy! At least for quantity; I shan’t opine on quality. And at least when you’ve done the 50k words in 30 days in Finnish a couple of times; there may be the same number of letters used, but Finnish uses longer, agglutinative words. I easy hit 3000 words per day when the plot went forward. (Generally speaking it did.)

As is usual, after the first two weeks I had to periodically doodle up and lock away Ideas; getting into writing means I start getting big huge Ideas for the other stories I could be writing. Sometimes high and flighty concepts; sometimes just single lines, like an alien barking “Look like humans? Ha! Ha! Ha! The most self-centered statement I’ve ever heard—“, or “nnwm cyoa” — a NaNoWriMo novel that is a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Or the idea of a portal fantasy, people of our world thrown into one of fantasy, with two novel differences: (1) the “normal” people aren’t there for a reason, and have that crucial bit of initiative to come up with a Reason on their own; and (2) are mature enough to look around and say, “Golly gee! This medieval place could benefit from a few modern tricks of technology, but even moreso from a few ideas of morality! Like feminism, rights for gays, a little bit less Orc-demonization and some democracy and— wait a moment, they will think us Dark Lords as sure as Pat Robertson does— and is it right to force them into this or should we seduce— and wait, this is becoming a really awkward colonialism parallel—”

Also, “To think of really impractical ideas, how about a darker and edgier novel reboot of the life and times of Scrooge McDuck?”

Yup; of the ideas, the NaNoWriMo CYOA is the most practicable; I think I have a few thousand words I wrote a year or two ago somewhere that would work for it. They start with You landing at Helsinki Airport to deliver a package to the University since you’re passing through and have a day to spare; pretty soon insanity, mania, body-shaved bears and deranged heavy metal musicians intrude and the forests have You.

I could write each bit in a different file and then work up a bash script to turn them to proper linked html and put them up at— or hammer (typoed in as “matter”) out macros for hyperlinks in a pdf file and— ah, that’s a project for a different day. (Wait a minute, it should not be impossible to create such source files and bash-macros that they’d create both tex-pdf and a cluster of html—)